Baard: No refinery, but a few landowners pocket $805,500 in taxpayer money

CLEVELAND — “A new report by Ohio Citizen Action shows that a handful of landowners in Columbiana County have collected a total of $805,500 in state funds for purchase options on land for a plant that may never be built. The land owned by the individuals is the proposed site of the controversial Baard Energy coal refinery. The Columbiana County Port Authority has negotiated a series of deals with the 17 landowners to purchase the property for the project. Ohio Citizen Action has obtained copies of these agreements and related documents through public records requests. The deals vary widely, with individuals receiving different benefits and a range of advance payments.

If the project is cancelled, some landowners will make out much better than others.

The top individual recipient, David McCourt, will keep $260,000, and two others, George Yaney and Mike Pusateri Excavating, will keep $175,000 each. Other recipients have received anywhere from $12,000 to $55,000. Certain recipients have already received a very high percentage of the eventual purchase price in up front payments – up to 71%, while others have received as low as 2.4% of the payments up front.

At various stages of the renewals, the Port Authority has sweetened the deals for the landowners – by increasing the purchase prices, allowing them to keep the payments for the purchase options without crediting them toward the eventual purchase price, and making cash payments of varied amounts in different individual negotiations.

 Sandy Buchanan, Executive Director, Ohio Citizen Action